Episode 82: Jon Moter, Family Constellation Facilitator: Healing the Family
Jon Moter works with individuals and couples to help uncover links, ties and devotions to family members that we may not be aware exist. Not only are we unaware they exist, many times they are holding us back from the life we are here to live. When we have unconscious allegiances to family members past or present, we deny ourselves the fullness of the life that is possible for us.
Tune in as Jon walks us through the background of Family Constellation work and how it works to help people discover and heal these concealed blocks to our personal empowerment.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome to Just For Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman. This show is dedicated to providing today’s modern women with useful information they need to make empowered conscious choices. Today we’re going to talk about something that’s been really interesting to me. It’s a workshop that I did recently. It’s called family constellation work, and it goes a little bit deeper than looking at how your mother and father and your, you know, immediate family has affected your life, and it goes into a realm of looking at how your ancestors and the lineage into which you were born can actually influence your life. So today I have Jon Moter, who’s going to talk to us about family constellation work. Welcome to Just For Women, Jon.
Jon Moter: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Alissa Kriteman: So let me just tell you a little bit about Jon. He’s a graduate of Brown University. He’s a practitioner, a master practitioner, of neural linguistic programming and a facilitator of the family constellation work. And so, Jon I know that the women and men who listen to my show are really interested in being empowered in every way, shape and form that they can be, and part of why I’m here is to bring awareness to things we might not know about, which is why I was so curious about the family constellation work, thinking, “What is it about my family and my lineage, my ancestors, that I don’t know, that I might not even be thinking could have an influence on my life.” So thank you for being here today to talk to us about this.
Jon Moter: You’re very welcome.
Alissa Kriteman: So lets, where do you want to start? Do you want to give us a little background about family constellation work, how it came in to be, how it’s different from other types of experiential learning workshops?
Jon Moter: Sure. Family constellation work was created by a man named Burt Hellinger. He is a, he’s a German man who was actually a soldier back during World War 2, so, I think he’s in his 90’s these days, very old. He was a soldier, he was captured but survived the war. Afterwards, in order to make sense of his experience there he actually became a Catholic priest and then became a missionary down in Africa, so he spent many years down meeting and working with tribes down in Southern Africa. After I think about a decade of that he came back into Germany and decided to study to become a psychotherapist, and he started a practice working with people in that way. So he has this incredibly unique set of combinations of skills, background and abilities, and what he started looking into was how to, how to take a look at how an individual exists within a larger family system. It was especially poignant in Germany after the war because the amount of pain and shame and damage that was done culturally by them, and then the people who, you know, the following generations, how to deal with all the, like the psychic damage that occurred in that culture. So there’s been a lot of really interesting methodologies and work coming out of Germany for a bunch of years now, and he developed this as a way of working, looking at the family as a system and what loyalties exist between individuals and the larger whole.
Alissa Kriteman: Awesome! So in a nutshell, how would a family constellation exercise work?
Jon Moter: So a family constellation, a family constellation is set up for an individual, usually who’s dealing with some, some issue in their life. Some problem may be around health or money or relationships, usually the really big things like the persistent issues and complaints that people have been dealing with for years and have tried therapy and done workshops, kind of thrown everything at, and still like, you know, maybe it’s better for a day or two and then just snaps right back into place. So a family constellation is set up as, in a group the person, the client whose family system is being explored, a facilitator and then several people, usually about a dozen I found it works with, works well with, and the other people act as representatives. So they stand in for the client, members of the family, sometimes entities like a country or something like that. My, I had a constellation done for me, and my mother, my mothers side of the family comes from Estonia. They were refugees from Estonia during World War 2, and in one of the constellations I had there was a representative standing in for the country of Estonia. And it’s looking at what the dynamics are between these various, either family members or entities, noticing where there’s some entanglement, or say… Say you have a, in my experience there was a feeling of like powerlessness from when Estonia was invaded and taken over by Russia during World War 2, and that feeling of powerlessness and overwhelming and victimhood was showing up in different members of my family, both myself, my mother, kind of showed up in various places. So it’s looking at how those, how those dynamics, those unconscious, like out of your day to day awareness, how those dynamics are showing up for you and your family members and trying to find a resolution, a re-solution that allows everyone to have at least as much strength and dignity as currently exists and allows individuals to have more fulfilling more empowered lives.
Alissa Kriteman: That’s so cool. So what you’re saying basically is that when Estonia showed up as a representation in your constellation beyond the people, it was taking into account the fact that as a country it was invaded and there were all these feelings and situations that happened in the country that were actually playing out in your family’s dynamic, which I would never think about that myself, but it makes sense when you think about it that your ancestors had to flee, there was all that energy, there was not home for them, no country for them and all the upset that would come from that, it’s like I would never think to think about that as a issue.
Jon Moter: Yeah, exactly. It’s a very, in many ways, counterintuitive way of looking at things. Family constellations deal in the realm of love and loyalty. A sense of loyalty and belonging are deeply embedded into like, I would say the DNA of being a human being. We are primates, we are… You know, thousands of years ago we existed in small tribes, and the survival of a tribe is based on the agreements of the people to like work today and to follow the rules of that tribe. The humans who didn’t show loyalty and follow the rules usually didn’t survive. So it’s kind of baked into our DNA, which is somewhat counterintuitive, especially those of us who are American’s and have a really strong sense of individuality, like, “I can, you know, I’m my own person and I can pull myself up by my straps and I can do my own thing”, which is like, it’s a beautiful and an amazing sentiment. There’s a whole lot of strength in there and a recognition that there are these bonds of love and loyalty, which are just part of who we are as human beings and it’s best to have awareness and be able to work with them and have those be a source of strength, rather than trying to work against them and have there be internal conflict and self sabotage going on in someone’s life. So for example, we presuppose in this work that all, like all children love their parents, all parents love their children. How that shows up can vary from like, you know, obviously loving, you know, like, you know, Leave It To Beaver, like good happy family, or it can show up like all sorts of pain and abuse and messed uppedness. But that loyalty, that loyalty is still there, so for example, if you have a, say a father who is, who does not respect women. There is, there is a really strong, there can be a strong pull, say, among his children to say like, “Dear Dad, in honor of you I will not respect women as well.” Or even, like another way of putting it, if he, if say dad does not respect his dad, his son might say, “Dad, in honor of you I will not respect you either.”
Alissa Kriteman: So you’re saying when they say things like this in the family constellation work, so what’s happening is when you say you’re bringing to the consciousness, to the persons awareness, “Wow, I think I’ve been living my life according to my fathers way of being. I’m not going to do that in my life.”
Jon Moter: Yeah, and again, these statements that I’m making are things that people never, like rarely if ever say out loud. It’s kind of a, it’s a statement of the dynamic that is happening. And what we find in the family constellation work is that a, speaking that, sort of acknowledging the pattern and the dynamic that is present, it allows movement to occur. It’s a recognition of what is so, and once it is recognized rather than pushed away, rather than ignored, there is, there’s an opportunity to work with it and perhaps shift it into something that is more useful.
Alissa Kriteman: Nice! We’re going to have to take a quick break to support our sponsors, and when we come back I want to talk with you more about how, what are some of the concepts that would be great for us to understand coming from our particular family dynamics, especially with the youngest person in the family and how things like that play out. We’ll talk more about that when we come back. My name is Alissa Kriteman. I’m your host of Just For Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex. And I’d love for you to listen to the ads that are coming up. They’re ads that are from my sponsors, and I’d really appreciate it if you can support them. This is Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Jon Moter, and we’ll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome back to Just For Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking today with Jon Moter, family constellation facilitator, and we’re talking about some very radical ideas about families, family of origin, some of the unconscious waste that we might be loyal to our families. So Jon, I’d love to talk a little bit more about this loyalty to our families that we touched on before the break.
Jon Moter: We’re talking about a loyalty at an unconscious level, which can show up in very interesting and surprising ways. A lot of people when they think loyalty, like being loyal to one’s family, they might think someone who follows the rules, like a good son or daughter, “I’m going to do what mom and dad tells me.” That’s not always necessarily the case. Say you have someone who comes from a very say conservative background and says like, “Screw you all, I’m going to move out, like move out and go do my own thing and, like, forget you, forget you people.” At the surface that might look like a lack of loyalty, but you dig around a bit you might discover that in every generation there’s always someone who’s the black sheep of the family. Or there’s loyalty to someone, someone who was cast out or ignored someway upstream, so that person might have a very strong, being excluded ends up being their way of showing loyalty. So it’s something you have to look around a little bit. There’s a, I believe Burt Hellinger said it really nicely that there’s, “In a family of thieves the child who does not steal feels guilty.”
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, you know, what I’m hearing in that is I think about some examples of like people who come from families… Like, even myself. Like my family didn’t come from a lot of money, no one in my family makes a lot of money. In my own struggle in my life I always say, “I’m here to learn how to make money”, because it’s not something that I grew up in, and that’s one of the keys that I was fascinated by in the workshop is that I looked at, “Wow, do I have an unconscious loyalty to my family to not be wealthy and know how to generate wealth and maintain wealth.” Is that what you’re saying?
Jon Moter: Exactly. If you come from generations of people who’ve always struggled around money there’s a strong loyalty to be part of the family, there may be an unconscious script saying, “I too will struggle with money.”
Alissa Kriteman: Would you say the same thing about cancer, like breast cancer? You know, it’s interesting because they say a lot of this is genetic, and I’m wondering with what you’re saying if it isn’t just this unconscious thought pattern that says, “Oh, cancers in my lineage.”
Jon Moter: Very possible. There are, I’ve certainly seen people deal with all sorts of interesting medical issues through using family constellation work. It’s actually quite remarkable what humans are capable of generating in their life. There’s, they’re willing to, you know, generate sickness to the point of like dying early if say you have people, people in your past who also succame to sickness and died early. There’s sort of an unconscious clause saying, like, “In honor of this family I too will become sick and die before my time.” So what we try to do in the constellation work is discover where these unconscious patterns lie, where these energetic ties are and honor those. I mean they are created and intended with love. They come from a really beautiful place, but is there some way that we can resolve this in a way that love can flow and love and loyalty can be shown to the family without needing to get sick or screw up your life in all sorts of creative ways.
Alissa Kriteman: Well said. Well, we’re going to take a break. This is Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Jon Moter, talking about family constellation work and what we need to know that we might never even thought about with regard to our family system and our lineage. And so the sponsors are coming up, so please check out my sponsors. I’d love for you to support them. They support me, and they’re providing some amazing things, so check them out. Please tune into that. And we’ll be right back to talk more about how family constellations work and how we can start to become even more aware of how our families, the families that we were born into, how they play a role unconsciously in our lives today. And we’ll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome back. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking with Jon Moter about the dynamics of family constellation work and how we might be unconsciously acting out and playing out roles in our family that we are unaware of. So Jon, lets talk a little bit about some of the concepts that are integral in family constellation work, that really make a difference for people in their lives when they understand that this might be going on, how we can, what that all means.
Jon Moter: Thank you. So when Burt Hellinger talks about family constellations the term he uses, what he calls the family soul, which is the set of all people who are biologically related to one another. So they’re, like even, one of the… It’s interesting and a little controversial, but even if someone is adopted they still have a very strong biological link to, an energetic link to their family of origin. So in this family soul, which is primarily interested in belonging… Everyone belongs, no one is ever excluded. Burt Hellinger says there are what we call big ones and little ones. The big ones are the ones who come earlier in the system; parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etcetera. The little ones are the younger ones; so children, grandchildren, etcetera. So in a family soul it is appropriate use for big ones to intervene on behalf of the little ones, but it’s not appropriate for little ones to intervene and try to make things better on behalf of the big ones. How this actually shows up in life is that people will like, kids are born into a system, notice any stress or distress in the family system and say, “I’ve got it. I’m going to try to make this better.” And it seems like their preferred method of trying to make things better is to try to take on the pain or the difficulties of people before them.
Alissa Kriteman: This is exactly what I did, this is why I wanted people to hear this information is because - and I’m the youngest of my family so I don’t know if that plays a role, but I realize that as the young one coming into a dysfunctional family unit, I felt like I had to fix it and I had to take on all of the pain that was going on in my family. And I think this is fascinating stuff because I’m not sure people even realize that they’re doing that.
Jon Moter: Absolutely. All children are trying to make things better for their family. Regardless of their actions, there’s always that undercurrent. Children always love their family, children are always trying to help. So for example, in my family like I mentioned, my grandparents came from Estonia and my grandmother was an orphan. So at a very young age both her parents died. So how that shows up in my life is, like I wasn’t an orphan for example, but I often have this fear of abandonment. Shows up a lot more in romantic relationships for me, but there’s still that same, it’s like the same shape. Like she was abandoned and felt alone as a result, so as a way of showing loyalty and love for her, there’s, it’s not at a conscious level, but there’s some kind of part of me that came on the scene and said, “Okay grandma, in honor of you I too will feel lonely and fear abandonment in my life too”, and did a ton of work, ton of, you know, neural linguistic programming, ton of therapy, like, you know, looked at this, and there’s always been this undercurrent of loneliness, which is really tricky to move because it is fed by a sense of love. It’s this weird illogical thing that like, “Dear grandma, I will try to make it better for you retroactively, in the 1920’s when you were born. If I’m lonely and sad now that will somehow try to make things better back for you, for you back then.” Totally wacky and humans seem to do it all the time. So what, what’s possible in this work, and what I want to offer you as listeners, is to take a look in your family system and if there are things that you struggle with, if you struggle with depression or have trouble with work or relationships, look for people in the family system – might be your immediate family, might be grandparents, uncles, etcetera – that there’s something that has a similar feel or a similar energy going on. For me, for example, it’s not that grandmother had trouble in romantic relationships, but that same feeling of abandonment shows up. So, and what you can do is if you can find that, you can, by acknowledging that is there as an expression, as an expression of love, it allows some movement around it. It allows you to recognize, like, “Oh, I’m, like for me I’m feeling lonely” in an attempt to be loyal, and I can sort of internally take, you know, take myself, drop into myself, try some like visualizations and a way of honoring her in a more productive useful way. It’s like, “Dear grandma, I love you and, like, please look kindly upon me when I am happy and fulfilled, even though you could not be when you were young.”
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. And I just want to say, if this is a little confusing listening to this, what it is is that the things that Jon are saying are things that happen in the process itself. And so to get more information on how this process actually works and how if you do find yourself living your life based in unconscious loyalty to your family, there’s a whole visualization that I have included in a product that I’m coming out with. It’s called Masterful Techniques For Fear and Anxiety Relief. And so you can go through the visualization that Jon is actually leading, and there’s also work in a workbook that I’ve put together for this product, because I think it’s important for us to start to look at where the dynamics of who we are and how we came to be started even beyond us, before us. I think it’s extremely important to look at how our family has directly impacted us, but I think it’s fascinating too to look beyond that in what was life like for my grandparents, how did that influence who I am today? And so we do a great visualization technique on reclaiming our littleness in our family lineage. Not just being the youngest of the family, but being the child of our parents and of our grandparents and really becoming un-enmeshed and untangled from some of the dynamics that might’ve played out there. So what else can you say Jon to our listeners about this work that would be interesting for them?
Jon Moter: So like I said earlier, that Burt Hellinger quote, the child who, “In a family of thieves, the child who does not steal feels guilty.” There’s a, that feeling of guilt comes from, it’s like a deep seeded human reaction to not following the agreements of the tribe. So for example, if you have a group of, a family who has always struggled with money and a child, like lets say you and your current generation have an opportunity to make a lot of money and be successful. That might be something like that everyone in the family, like, encourages you to do so, like, “Yes, go for it, like, that’s wonderful”, and there’s like a really human reaction that if you were to succeed you’d feel guilty. So I’ve seen lots of people who have this family dynamic and will find amazingly creative ways to screw up their finances. You know, be right on the edge of having, like, a whole lot of abundance and then manage to flush it down the toilet or have some, like, amazing coincidences that cause it all to come tumbling down. Humans are massively creative in ways to continue to structure their life in, so, in loyalty to follow the rules inside of the family that the feeling, the good feeling that comes from that is what we call innocence. There’s a really strong almost addiction to innocence that we as human beings have, and actually a sign of like deep emotional maturity is a willingness to feel guilt. A willingness to feel the guilt of having more than your parents did. Or having a life that is more fulfilled, more, like more deep, more what you want than the people who came before you. Being able to find a way of holding that, that that is actually a culmination of their desires and the movement of your family, rather than a betrayal and dealing with whatever feelings come up with that makes a whole lot more available in an individuals life.
Alissa Kriteman: So it sounds like once we realize these patterns are at play, it sounds like there’s some emotional work that needs to happen and some emotional maturity, which is fascinating to me because it seems like emotions are at the heart of every stuck place or everywhere people are stopped, and so getting in there and looking at what have I not been willing to feel here, and you’re saying namely it’s the guilt of moving on beyond your family’s maybe income level or intelligence level, that letting go of that bond to that sense of being loyal to that however many lineages its come through, to…. And I would think that that takes a lot of courage and energy and support.
Jon Moter: Exactly. There’s a lot of emotions that come up with that. I find what’s often helpful to me is know that regardless of one’s actions, in the context of family constellations and the family soul, your place in the family is immutable. Everyone belongs. Regardless of what you do you are always part of and connected to your family. So there’s an illusion that somehow being successful and having more will somehow separate you, make you disloyal, make you a bad person and everything like that, it’s actually an illusion. But it has very real emotions that come up with that. So for me a willingness to just be with the emotions, understand the emotional reactions and recognize that my love, loyalty and part of the family system that I am part of exists regardless of what happiness and success I have in my life has allowed me to step outside what was normal or predictable or, you know, the norms of that family system into a life that is far more satisfying and extraordinary.
Alissa Kriteman: Exactly. Totally empowered, that’s what we’re going for. Alright, we’re going to take our final break and then when we come back we’ll just wrap up, I have one or two more questions for you. This is Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Jon Moter. We’re talking about family constellations and how we can really start to live the life that is true and honest for us when we look at what’s been unconsciously holding us back with regard to our family. And we’ll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: We’re back. I’m Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking with Jon Moter about family constellation work and how we can start to free ourselves from some of the pain, the lineage of pain that might be in our family that we are unconsciously living out in our lives as well. So Jon, I just want to ask you a couple more questions before we have to go here, but one question I want to ask is if a woman finds herself in a lineage of abuse, whether it’s sexual abuse or emotional abuse, and she’s listening to this interview and she thinks, “Wow, I didn’t realize how pervasive this is”, and she’s finding it hard to forgive and finding it hard to come to that place where she can come to terms with it and move on, what, how can family constellation work help and what can she do about this, just in general?
Jon Moter: Well having a family constellation set up and done can be useful if you happen to have a constellation practitioner in your area. They’re somewhat rare but they do exist out there. Googling in your local area would probably be useful. Aside from that, if one is found in a lineage where, of abuse, there’s often a sense of a dynamic of perpetration and victimhood, and therefore part of the loyalty comes in being a victim. It is a, it’s a statement of love to those who came before you, so the undercurrent is, you know, “I too will be abused or be a victim.” And then something like this will have an amazing ability to just intuitively and unconsciously find people that will play out that dynamic with them. So what’s useful is finding a place inside yourself of being able to honor those victims who came before you, but recognize that their pain is not yours, and to take on their pain in honor of them actually does no good. It is actually most respectful and most empowering for everyone to involve to leave their pain and their suffering with them and with respect and with love, not forgive as if it is your job or your position to offer forgiveness, but allow yourself to disengage, to disentangle oneself from that sort of expression of loyalty and love. It’s somewhat abstract and it’s more of a internal felt experience than a idea or a cognitive thing. So what I would encourage someone to do is notice the emotions that come up, notice any sense of innocence or belonging that comes up when you think about victimhood or being abused and find a place in yourself that will allow you the strength to have useful and powerful relationships even if that does create a bit of sense of guilty within you.
Alissa Kriteman: That’s interesting because normally we hear “Forgive, forgive, forgive and that’s the key to empowerment, and…” But what you’re saying is you’re not necessarily forgiving but you’re putting that pain back with the people that were perpetuating it. Like, that’s their pain, it’s kind of like the buck stops here. That’s an interesting point.
Jon Moter: Yeah, forgiveness creates, it’s often given a lot of, you know… Like you said, forgive, you know, forgive your parents, forgive other people and that sort of thing. Like I said in the, in relation to bigness and littleness, to forgive someone makes you a little, often inappropriately big and it creates a, actually it keeps you tied together to some degree. It is saying, like, “I will now be big and I will forgive you”, which isn’t actually clean, it’s not a statement among equals. So that what we often do in the family constellation work is have representatives say something like, “I leave your pain with you” or “I take responsibility for my part in this and leave your part of it with you”, as a cleaner way of disentangling and allowing oneself to move on.
Alissa Kriteman: Wow, I really like that. Jon Moter, thank you so much for being on Just For Women today and for illuminating for us another avenue in our journey to be empowered and love ourselves completely and understand how we got to be here and, you know, where some of these emotional gaps might be, and I see, especially for myself, how constellation work has really opened up this whole other perspective for me about what was going on with my grandparents and their grandparents that actually had an affect on my family and myself. So if people want to get more information on this kind of work and to contact you directly, how would they do that?
Jon Moter: Well I have a website, jonmoter, j-o-n-m-o-t-e-r, dot com (jonmoter.com). For other information on constellation work, there is a great book by Bertold Ulsamer called The Healing Power of the Past. Or if you Google for Burt Hellinger, h-e-l-l-i-n-g-e-r, there are lots of resources and information available, or Googling for family constellations. There’s a wealth of information and books available for you to educate yourself and explore this further on your own.
Alissa Kriteman: Fantastic! Thank you so much. That brings us to the end of the show. Thank you so much for listening. For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media network, just visit personallifemedia.com. And now you can get instant notification when my next shows go live. Just go to personallifemedia.com/signup. You can get same day notification or a weekly digest. And I know you don’t want to miss all the fantastic stuff I have coming out, so just go to personallifemedia.com/signup. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman, always expanding your choices here on Just For Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex. Tune in next week for more juicy news you can use.